Zombie Nation: Part Three
Mr. Jennings smoothed the morning’s paper out on his desk.
“Interesting,” he said simply as he stared down at the headline.
‘AFTERNOON OF THE LIVING DEAD’
“Sir?” Mr. Black asked from across the desk.
“It seems the Zombie populace of Neopia Central are planning a demonstration,” Jennings explained.
He scanned the rest of the article.
‘Neopia Central is expected to be overrun by Zombies later today. In a statement released late last night, prominent Zombie Rights campaigner Mr. Arthur Munroe announced the intention of his peers to march through the city. Mr. Munroe, who has been a supporter of the Zombie Rights Movement since his untimely death in the autumn, was quoted as saying, “It’s time the people of this city paid attention to the Living Impaired”.
The demonstration, due to begin at 3 p.m. in the Marketplace, has sparked criticism from other upstanding citizens. Mr. Seth Vargo, a notable business owner in the Docklands said, “I’ve had it with these Zombies. They come here from the Haunted Woods and steal the jobs of honest, hard working, living people”.
Fears of a counter-demonstration by anti-Zombie groups were put to rest by the Defenders of Neopia. A spokesperson this morning told the Neopian Times that the demonstration would be closely watched by their members, and that any violence would be dealt with “swiftly and with force”.’
Jennings smirked to himself.
“Mr. Vargo has resurfaced at last,” he commented. “He seems worried about the Zombies.”
“Sir?” Black asked.
“If he is worried about them, we are on their side,” Jennings replied. “Do I have any appointments at three today?”
“No, sir,” Black told him. “You’re due to be paying Judge Hog a surprise visit at five, and you are meeting Kanrik of the Thieves Guild at twelve.”
“Good, then I think we shall be able to attend this little demonstration,” Jennings smiled. “Find a convenient spot for us in the Marketplace.”
The Grarrl nodded, and left Mr. Jennings to his thoughts.
Oldnose leaned back from his masterpiece. He’d been an artisan in life, and whilst strictly not a painter, he had tried his hand at it in the past.
Not that it mattered of course; he was painting a rudimentary placard, not an oil painting. It read ‘Zombie Freedom!’ with various little pictures of Zombies in happy poses.
He was going to hold it at the demonstration, along with the countless signs that other Zombies were making. The turnout was expected to be quite high, and everyone in the Old Quarter was nervous.
There were rumours of people organising counter-demonstrations at the same time, and everyone was nervous that it could spark off into a riot. Many Zombies had contemplated staying at home, but most had in the end let their pride convince them to go.
They were Zombies and they had something to say, regardless of what other people thought about them.
Oldnose set out once he had finished his placard. He’d managed to book the day off work, and as the sun shone down on Neopia Central, he was glad that he didn’t smell of drains.
There was already a small crowd of Zombies in the Marketplace when Oldnose arrived. He joined them, and as the Aisha on the wooden box at the front began shouting things from a megaphone, Oldnose held his placard high in the air.
“What do we want!?” the Aisha yelled.
“Zombie Rights!” the crowd replied.
“When do we want them!?”
The demonstration continued in that vein, supporters slowly growing until the crowd covered most of the Marketplace. Eventually, it got to the size where people had no choice but to stop and listen, as they couldn’t get through the streets.
It wasn’t long before someone who was still alive said something.
“Why don’t you all come back where you came from!?” a voice from the crowd shouted. “You come here from the Haunted Woods, stealing our jobs, it’s not on!”
“I was born in Neopia Central!” an angry voice from the crowd of Zombies shouted back.
“I only do my job because no one else wants to. You feel like wading through the sewers?” another added.
“It’s still not on!” the voice from the crowd of living Neopets continued. “You’re supposed to stay dead!”
A small distance away in the shadow of one of the stores, a green Krawk and Grarrl sat watching proceedings. The shouting grew increasingly louder, and more voices joined in.
“There’s going to be a riot, sir,” Mr. Black observed.
“Almost inevitably, yes, Mr. Black,” Jennings replied. “I shouldn’t worry, though; the Defenders of Neopia are out in force.”
Jennings pointed carefully to three Neopets stood in the heart of the crowd. They wore long trench coats that clearly disguised spandex outfits beneath.
“The real cause for interest is who will throw the first punch,” Jennings continued.
The two of them sat in silence as the shouting intensified.
Then, quite suddenly, a boot threw through the air from the crowd of living Neopets. It arced high in the sky, gaining the attention of many, before falling down into the crowd of Zombies and hitting an Aisha firmly on her head.
The Zombie’s head fell off, and for a moment there was complete silence on both sides of the dispute as everyone present mentally calculated what just happened.
Then at once both crowds surged forwards into each other, fists, legs, tails and pincers flying.
Mr. Jennings nodded.
“I thought it would go that way,” he commented as he got up and folded his deck chair away.
“What now, sir?” Mr. Black asked.
“We observe from a distance,” Jennings informed him.
In the crowd, the Defenders of Neopia revealed themselves, striking dashing poses.
The crowd backed away slightly, unsure of what was happening, while a fair number of Zombies turned tails and ran. The living Neopets gave chase, the madness of the riot consuming their minds.
Oldnose was exhausted as the Old Quarter came into view. There were Zombies on all sides of him. Considering that their normal pace was a shuffle, they had managed to run quite fast.
There were still rioters on their tails, though. Oldnose didn’t want to think what had happened to the protesters who had stayed behind in the Marketplace.
Oldnose’s heart fell as the running group of Zombies neared the entrance to the Old Quarter came closer. There was a crowd waiting there, with burning torches. Rioters from the nearby Docklands had got there first.
The Zombies were trapped between two groups of them. There would be no escape.
Oldnose ducked into a side alley as soon as he could, but found it was a dead end.
He pressed himself against the bricks, panting though he had no real need of oxygen. It was the nerves more than anything.
The crowd that was slowly moving towards the Zombies was violent... and while they couldn’t really kill the Zombies... they could do some very lasting damage.
Oldnose shook his head.
This wasn’t how he’d imagined it, back in the Haunted Woods. Neopia Central was supposed to be a land of opportunity, not of hate.
Part of him wished that he was back there, under the safety of the trees, under the protection of the Baron.
Then, something very curious happened.
Oldnose stopped moving.
Out in the street, the Zombies that had been slowly backing towards each other also stopped.
The crowd of rioters paused in their advance, unsure of what was occurring. The Zombies stared back with blank, emotionless faces.
Then a new figure emerged from the heart of the Zombie circle.
It was a Scorchio with a raggedy suit and skeletal face paints. He gently strummed a banjo in his arms, and the Zombies seemed to sway to the chord.
“I am Baron Friday-Lunchtime!” the Scorchio proclaimed in a theatrical tone. “Lord of all Zombies! These are mine!”
The rioters backed away slightly. They were unsure what to make of the newcomer, and there was something more intimidating about one Zombie compared to a crowd of them.
“You wish these people to be gone?” the Baron asked with a little chuckle. “They will go. I claim this place, this Oldest District. This is mine. They will not trouble you outside of here any longer.”
The Baron marched forwards towards the gates of the Old District. The Zombies behind him began to move in time to his music, following along like helpless puppets. The crowd of rioters parted to make way for them, more bewildered than anything else.
Oldnose was the last to cross the line into the Old District.
The Baron turned back, and bowed low to the gathered crowd. Like magic, vines and twisting oaks sprouted up from the ground, blocking the entrance to the street.
The rioters were left alone.
Some distance away, a Krawk and a Grarrl watched with interest.
Jennings nodded quietly to himself.
“Interesting,” he mused. “Very interesting.”
The crowd of rioters banged on the wall that had risen up in the street. It repelled them with magical force. After a few moments they began to grumble to themselves and disperse, whatever madness that had consumed their minds was quickly evaporating.
It wasn’t long before the Defenders of Neopia arrived on the scene from cleaning up the Marketplace.
“Late as ever,” Jennings commented.
“Any orders, sir?” Mr. Black asked.
Jennings watched as Judge Hog was also magically forced back from the wooden barrier.
“I shall need to sleep on this one, I think,” he said at last.
“Sir?” Black questioned.
“Magic,” Jennings muttered. “Magic.”
To be continued...